Magnesite and magnesia in Turkey

By IM Staff
Published: Monday, 25 January 2016

Turkey is a magnesite-rich country and has a long history of mining the mineral, both for export and increasingly for its own internal refractories and speciality materials sectors. Aykut Karaca, IM Correspondent, gives an overview of Turkey’s geological background and profiles some of the country’s main magnesite and magnesia producers.

Magnesia’s association with Turkey goes back a long way. The common name for magnesium oxide (MgO), magnesia was also the name of at least one ancient Greek city in Turkey, located in the western region of Ionia, after the locally-abundant, magnesium-containing geology. 

Magnesite deposits large and rich enough to mine economically to produce commercial-quality products only occur in certain parts of the world. Turkey’s favourable geology, with its ophiolite belts, extensive ultramafic rocks and widespread sedimentary basins, mean it has numerous high grade magnesite deposits occurring across the country.

The most important deposits are located in Eskişehir, Kütahya and Konya, which all contain vein type, cryptocrystalline magnesite. Others exist in Ankara, Balıkesir, Bilecik, Bursa, and Erzincan, with sedimentary deposits in Çankırı and Denizli. 

According to the General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration (MTA) of Turkey, exploration for magnesite in the country first started in 1808 in the city of Sakarya by a company called France Elektore Coulant. 

However, the first magnesite mining activities did not begin until 1929 and the industry has continued to grow since then. Production of magnesia products commenced around the 1940s and the US Geological Survey’s (USGS) 2014 Mineral Yearbook for magnesium compounds – the latest year for which data is available – shows that Turkey was the second largest producer of magnesite in the world, at 2.7m tonnes in 2014, after China, which produced 20.5m tonnes of the mineral that year (see table).

Below are short summaries of some of the companies that produce magnesite and magnesia in Turkey. 

Turkish1 

Old as the hills: Magnesite mining in Turkey has a long history, but production
of commercial magnesia products in the country only began in the 1940s and
has since grown into a major industry. 
Kümaş
 

Kütahya Manyezit Sanayi AŞ (Kümaş)

Kümaş was established in 1972 as a public incorporated company. It started by mining magnesite and began producing DBM for the first time in 1976. In 1990, the company started making end products like refractory bricks for numerous industries by using its own raw materials. In 1997, Kümaş invested in ore beneficiation and separation technology to increase the life of its mines. In 2011, it bought Bommag Manyezit’s Tavşanlı (Kütahya) mine and associated magnesia plant. In May 2014, the company built an additional two furnaces with a combined 18,000 tpa capacity for producing FM, taking its total capacity for this product to 40,000 tpa. In 2012, Kümaş was bought by by Gozde Private Equity (Yıldiz Holding) & Gurmen Group.

Today, the company has magnesite mines in Eskişehir, Kütahya and Bilecik, with total reserves of 127m tonnes of high quality magnesite. It is currently Turkey’s largest DBM producer, with 300,000 tpa capacity, up from 180,000 tpa in 1997. Kümaş also produces and sells CCM and FM, both locally and to export markets.

World magnesite production by country
in 2014
 

Country

Production (tonnes)

China

20.5m

Turkey

2.7m

Russia

1.5m

Austria

750,000

Slovakia

700,000

Spain

650,000

Brazil

600,000

Australia

500,000

Rest of the world
(US data withheld)

1.1m

Total

29.3m 

Source: USGS 2014 Mineral Yearbook:
Magnesium Compounds 

Akdeniz Mineral Kaynakları AŞ

Akdeniz Mineral is a subsidiary of Greece-based Grecian Magnesite SA, which owns around 90% of the shares in the Turkish high purity CCM producer. Akdeniz was established in 1993 as a raw magnesite producer and currently mines around 300,000 tpa. In 2004, the company purchased Comag Continental Madencilik AŞ's licences and beneficiation/calcination facilities (Kümbet and Erenköy) in Eskişehir, around three hours southeast of Istanbul, from where it sources 100% of its raw materials. In 2013, the company installed a new rotary kiln, which doubled its CCM production capacity to 32,000 tpa.

Akdeniz produces variety of CCM products with MgO contents ranging from 88% to 98% to meet the needs of different industries, from metallurgy to cement and agriculture. The company’s deposits consist of three main concessions totalling 4,238 ha (42.38km2) in the Eskişehir area, which the company claim hold significant reserves, although precise figures are not available. It has a pre-beneficiation facility in Aktepe and a main beneficiation facility in Erenköy. Grecian Magnesite has an R&D centre in Greece, where the two companies collaborate on new products and applications. Akdeniz’s calcination facility, with two shaft kilns and one rotary kiln, is located in Kümbet. Although it also serves the local market, around 75% of its total volumes are exported.

Konya Selçuklu Krom Magnezİt Tuğla Sanayİ AŞ

Konya was established in 1966 by government-owned Sümerbank and started its production in 1969 as Turkey’s first refractories manufacturer. After two unsuccessful privatisation attempts, in 1998, Konya was finally privatised and sold to holding company, Özkaymak Şirketler Grubu. The company mines its own magnesite and although its exact resources are unknown, Konya’s deposits are believed to contain around 9m tonnes proven and 40m tonnes probable magnesite reserves. The company operates a rotary kiln with the capacity to produce 40,000 tpa CCM, which it makes alongside a range of refractory products for the cement, steel, lime and glass industries.

Turkish2 

Turkey’s magnesia producers have invested in updating their manufacturing technology to compete with some of the best quality refractory materials on the global market (source: MAŞ (RHI)).

Magnesit Anonim Sirketi (MAŞ)

MAŞ was set up in 1963 by the Austrian company, Veitscher Magnesit. Today, it is controlled by Austria-headquartered RHI Group, which merged with Veitscher Magnesit in 1993. MAŞ produces refractories and DBM in two rotary and three vertical kilns at its Dutluca facility using its own magnesite from mines around Eskişehir and additional magnesite from other producers, for a total volume of 530,000 tpa. Its DBM capacity is 265,000 tpa and the company produces five different types of DBM for local and international customers in different industries. 

In 2013, MAŞ announced its intention to buy Cihan Group’s magnesite mining rights in Erzurum, northeast Turkey, along with Cihan’s mothballed 60,000 tpa DBM facility, for €36m ($48.2m*). However, in September 2014, RHI said it would not pursue the deal as the seller had failed to meet all of MAŞ’s contractual conditions for the sale.

Trabzon Mining and Metal Corp. (Türkmag)

Trabzon was established in 1998 by Cihan Group Holding Co., under its mining and metals arm. Up until 2007, the company performed feasibility studies on its concessions in the Erzurum area and secured 22 chromite and magnesite sites. Cihan reportedly invested around $70m in constructing chrome and magnesite processing facilities, with a capacity of 100,000 tpa DBM. 

The company announced it would commence DBM production in December 2010, but according to local media reports at the time, the facility was shut down in 2012. Following the failure of the deal with MAS, in September 2015 Cihan Mining and Türkmag Mining announced that they had applied to the Turkish authorities to postpone bankruptcy for one year. 

Production and reserve numbers for Türkmag are unknown, but the region in which its mining concessions are located are thought to contain 10-15m tonnes magnesite. 

Turkish3 

Construction in Turkey is booming, with new urban commercial and residential developments in cities like Istanbul generating more domestic demand for steel, cement and glass, which require refractory materials to produce.

Yeni Madencilik

The company started as a contractor for MAŞ’s Kızılelma magnesite mine in 1988. In 1994, it bought licences to operate Kızılelma from MAŞ and started producing raw magnesite. It renovated the facilities and added furhter magnesite and chrome sites to its portfolio in 1997. In 2000, Yeni started exporting processed magnesite. Today, the company produces 200,000 tpa raw magnesite and 10,000 tpa processed magnesite and has 3m tonnes proven magnesite reserves.

Yıldız İnşaat Madencilik

Established in 1994, Yildiz owns a magnesite mine in Eskişehir-Tepebaşı and produces fine grained processed magnesite, which it supplies mainly to MAŞ, as well as to other local and international customers. 

Şetat Madencilik Gıda Sanayi ve Ticaret AŞ

Şetat Madencilik was established in 1996 under the Şetat Holding Co., owned by a family private wealth office in Turkey. The company started its business by producing and exporting chrome and olivine before branching into magnesite in 2007, mined in the Bursa-Orhaneli area. According to company data, Şetat Madencilik’s concessions contain more than 650,000 tonnes total magnesite reserves. 

Demireller Madencilik

Demireller Madencilik was founded in 2001, when it started producing bauxite from 10 licences in Mersin and Ayranci, in southern Turkey. In 2006, the company began producing magnesite in the Konya-Ereğli mine. At present, Demireller only produces raw magnesite, but since 2011, it has also operated a fully-equipped mining laboratory for iron and industrial minerals analysis.

Madkim Maden Kimya Ltd Şti

Formed in 1984, Madkim began producing and exporting raw magnesite from the Kütahya-Tavşanlı and Bursa-Harmancık mines in 1988. The company has mined various other minerals including iron, coal, kaolinite, feldspar, chalcedony and quartzite in the past, but today produces only chromite, magnesite, limestone and sepiolite. The company has limited processing (physical separation) capacity for raw magnesite, while further crushing and milling
are performed according to customer requirements. 

Other producers

There are three other raw magnesite producing companies of note in Turkey, however there is little information available about their operations.

These companies are: Özemiroğlu Madencilik (Bursa-Kemalpaşa mine); Cengiz Maden (Eskişehir/Kütahya mines) and Dost Madencilik.  

Types and uses of magnesia

Although it occurs naturally in the form of periclase and can be extracted from other magnesium-containing sources such as brines, seawater and the mineral brucite, the vast majority of commercially used magnesia is produced from calcination of magnesite (magnesium carbonate, MgCO3) or magnesium hydroxide. There are three major types of magnesia that make up the bulk of the material’s global market. These are caustic calcined magnesia (CCM), deadburned magnesia (DBM) and fused magnesia (FM).

CCM, which has 82-90% MgO content, is a chemically reactive material produced by the calcination of magnesite at temperatures between 700˚C and 1,100˚C, usually in vertical shaft kilns or horizontal rotary kilns.

DBM, or refractory magnesia, has 90-96% MgO content, is produced by heating magnesite at temperatures between 1,450 and 2,000˚C and is a high density, granular and nonreactive product.

FM, which usually has an MgO content of 96-99%, is a highly stable, resistant and dense high-end product obtained by firing high grade magnesite ore or CCM or DBM in electric arc furnaces at temperatures above 2,800˚C.

These different types of magnesia have a range of applications. CCM has variety of uses, from water treatment to animal feed, fertilisers, construction, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and metallurgy. Due to their refractory and nonreactive nature, DBM and FM are used to produce refractory products, mainly for use in the steel
industry, as well as in cement and glass manufacturing. The high purity, chemical stability and resistance of FM also makes it suitable for some niche applications in nuclear reactors and rocket nozzles.

Magnesite mineralisation

Magnesite is a natural magnesium carbonate (MgCO3) mineral with a theoretical MgO content of 47.8%.

Magnesite mineralisation occurs by alteration of magnesium silicate minerals in ultramafic rocks of ophiolites, by metasomatism of dolomitic rocks, or by deposition in sedimentary environments. 

Magnesite deposits in altered dolomitic rocks form as crystalline (macrocrystalline), lenticular or bedded masses. Magnesite deposits in ultramafic rocks are usually cryptocrystalline (microcrystalline) and occur in the form of veins, lenses, nodules, stockworks and irregular shaped bodies. Magnesites of sedimentary origin are generally cryptocrystalline and are in the form of nodules, lenses and beds. Macrocrystalline magnesite may have higher calcium (Ca) and iron (Fe) impurities compared to cryptocrystalline magnesite.

Positive and negative influences on magnesia demand

Magnesia has the advantage of having multiple fields of consumption, but the refractories industry continues to be the largest end market for Turkish magnesia and magnesite markets. Refractories for steel is the biggest consuming sector, followed by cement and glass, and China’s steel industry remains the principal driver of demand trends.

There have been a number of recent industry developments that may affect the magnesia and magnesite markets in different ways, in the short or long run.

Possible positives

• Chinese government implementing policies to shut down less efficient facilities and force more environmentally-led practices in the mining, cement, glass and steel industries in order to decrease emissions, which could cause magnesia prices to rise and make Chinese magnesia less competitive;

• Demand for CCM in water treatment, agriculture as animal feed and fertilisers, and in other markets is expected to increase.

Possible negatives

• Slower than expected growth in the steel industry and Chinese economy;

• China setting a goal to reduce consumption of magnesia per unit of steel produced;

• Shifting preference by end users in favour of higher quality refractory materials, resulting in longer product life, thus reducing magnesia consumption.

Despite the challenges facing the global magnesia industry, it is expected that the Turkish magnesia market will weather the storm, owing to its abundant and high quality resources and relatively low mining costs. However, Turkish companies have been urged to invest in new technology to produce more valuable products, rather than in capacity expansions.

*Conversion made August 2013